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Student Discourse to Replace the Stand-and-Deliver Model

Laurie Boswell, co-author at Big Ideas Learning, explains a dynamic and interactive teaching trend

The stand-and-deliver model of mathematics teaching is an instructional technique that is being replaced by a more dynamic and interactive style. In Principles to Actions, a new publication from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, eight effective teaching practices are identified, and one focuses on student discourse: “Effective teaching of mathematics facilitates discourse among students to build shared understanding of mathematical ideas by analyzing and comparing student approaches and arguments.” 

Walking into a mathematics classroom today, you should hear more conversation amongst students and much less teaching by telling.  This is not to suggest that direct instruction should never occur, rather that it needs to be balanced with students discussing and exchanging ideas with one another.  The communication that is taking place should not be limited to verbal form, as communication may be visual or written.

Creating a classroom culture where student discourse enhances learning is not as simple as telling students to turn and talk.  Teachers need to carefully plan their lessons, and the first step is selecting a problem or task that is aligned with a key mathematical idea. The task should allow for different entry points and more than one approach to solving the problem.  Planning in advance, teachers should anticipate students’ work and understand what each approach reveals about a student’s understanding of the content.  During class, teachers must listen to the discussions and observe group work in order to make decisions about what work will be shared with the whole class and in what order.  Connecting students’ responses to the key mathematical idea is the orchestration that will be expected of all teachers in the future.

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